The Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods is training conflict resolution team members, One Love Ambassadors, to decrease violence in the city. | Photo courtesy of OSHN

The Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhood is expanding its multifaceted violence prevention efforts in Louisville, thanks to a $1.3 million federal grant and a new partnership with the Chestnut Street YMCA, which has hired a team to do conflict resolution work in the Russell neighborhood.

Mayor Greg Fischer established the OSHN in March 2013 because of the city’s rising homicide rate. The office was tasked with developing a comprehensive strategy to decrease violence. OSHN Director Rashaad Abdur-Rahman told Insider Louisville his department attacked the problem by creating several action plans that are grouped together under the One Love Louisville banner.

The strategy behind One Love Louisville, Abdur-Rahman said, is to target high crimes areas and address the root causes of violence in those communities. He said much of the violence can be traced to systemic and structural issues like poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the high minority incarceration rate and the lack of employment opportunities for ex-prisoners returning to economically impoverished communities.

One of the city’s most important tools for decreasing violent crime, Abdur-Rahman said, is the Cure Violence model of conflict resolution. This evidence-based approach treats violence like a preventable disease. Community members are trained to prevent shootings and killings by detecting and interrupting lethal conflicts and mediating them to a peaceful end.

The Cure Violence approach is being used in more than 60 other cities in the United States and has decreased violent incidents by as much as 70 percent in some places, according to the program’s website.

In Louisville, the conflict resolution group No More Red Dots, which is funded by OSHN and Peace Education, is using the approach in the Portland and Shawnee neighborhoods. Data suggests, Abdur-Rahman said, that the city needs conflict resolution counselors in at least three other communities for the city to be up to capacity.

“The Chestnut Street YMCA is working with us to scale our Cure Violence work. They have hired a full-time team that will work with the community to identify and interrupt violence, and they will also look to reduce fallout from the violence that has already occurred. Right now, expansion of the Cure Violence model is kind of a stutter step. As we continue to scale, we are going to look at what other neighborhoods historically have high rates of violence,” Abdur-Rahman added.

Insider reached out to Chestnut YMCA Director Freddie Brown about the new program, but he referred all questions to the city, which is giving the organization more than $430,000 to implement it.

Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Director Rashaad Abdur-Rahman (far right) talks to two men at the Beecher Terrace Housing Complex. | Photo courtesy of OSHN

Another successful component to the One Love strategy has been the Reimage program, a partnership with KentuckianaWorks, which helps break the cycle of crime and violence among young adults, ages 18-24, who have been involved with the court system by connecting them to training, jobs and education. Reimage staff do street-level outreach in high-need neighborhoods, including Shawnee, Russell and Park Hill, although eligible youth from all areas of Louisville can participate.

More than 400 young people have enrolled in Reimage since it began in September 2015 and the recidivism rate among them is less than five percent, Abdur-Rahman said.

Reimage recently received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Louisville is among five communities receiving grants and joining the national reentry project known as the Compass Rose Collaborative, which is led by FHI 360, an international nonprofit working to improve the health and well-being of people in the United States and around the world. The other communities are Boston, Baltimore, Albany, N.Y., and southeast Arkansas.

Abdur-Rahman said the new funding will allow OSHN to hire four additional Reimage team members, including three Career Pathway Coaches, who will focus on connecting youth to training and jobs in the key business sectors of technology, manufacturing, construction and youth development.

“The grant we received and the new partnerships we’ve made are is really a validation of the work we’ve been doing in the community,” Abdur-Rahman explained. “We are still very much at the beginning of this work, but we are looking forward to building it out over the coming year.”